Daily Israel Report

US Hopeful Saleh Departure Will Help Yemen Heal

The top US diplomat in Yemen hailed President Ali Abdullah Saleh's departure from the country as a step towards stability.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 1/26/2012, 4:22 PM

The top United States diplomat to Yemen hailed President Ali Abdullah Saleh's departure from the country, saying it would help ensure a stable transition.

Gerald Feierstein, on Thursday, denied reports the US was assisting Saleh in finding a country to go into exile in, adding his US visit was only for the duration of his medical treatment.

Saleh departed Yemen on Sunday for Oman to receive treatment related to burns he sustained in an assassination attempt in June 2011, after making an apology for any "shortcomings" in his 33-year rule.

On Wednesday, officials in Muscat refused to comment on whether Saleh had asked for a safe-haven there, but added they would take no steps that would strain relations with Yemen.

Before leaving, Saleh passed power to his deputy as part of a U.S.-backed deal brokered by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council aimed at ending nearly a year of unrest in the country.

Vice-President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, heading a government equally divided between opposition figures and holdovers from the Saleh era, is expected to win the presidential election by a clear margin on February 21.

Under the deal, Saleh was granted immunity for the deaths of protesters killed by his forces, but many in the country are still demanding his prosecution, making it difficult for neighboring Arab nations and the U.S. to offer him refuge.

Analysts, however, say that Saleh will likely remain outside Yemen until after February 21 when Hadi and his new government take formal control.

At that time, able to obtain assurances from the new Yemeni government of continued good relations, foreign nations may be more willing to offer Saleh asylum.

Hadi's government not only faces a state of deep impoverishment, but an unstable security situation that has threatened to destabilize the country.

Yemen's security commission, authorized to restore stability, has warned that any new incursion by Al Qaeda militants or other groups will be dealt with firmly.

The statement comes as hundreds of Al Qaeda terrorists pulled out of a town that has been under its control since mid-January.

SANA news agency quoted a source from the commission as saying that the militants were driven out of Rada, thanks to local tribal mediation.

However, observers say it is unlikely similar mediation will succeed in the southern province of Abyan which is overrun by Al Qaeda, because local tribes are backing the terror group.

The U.S., which worked extensively with the Saleh government to mount a counter-terrorism campaign against Al Qaeda, is expected to aid in the Yemeni attempt to restore order to the south.

Al Qaeda presently threatens the key southern port city of Aden, which sits on a strategic approach to the Red Sea and Suez Canal.

The commission also faces a contentious situation in the north, where local tribesmen and ultra-conservative Suni elements have come into open conflict over doctrinal disputes.

Tribesmen in Yemen's north rebelled against Saleh more than once.